The politics of nomadism
It has been a thousand years since I started trekking the earth…*
– Jibanananda Das (1899-1954)
Legitimate power is finite, writes Foucault. When power breaches its contract with a given society within which it has been formalized, it does so in order to suppress the subjects and the subjective with a fixed set of objectives – to occupy, expand, dominate and rule. Both legitimate and illegitimate power endlessly draws sustenance from the spheres of knowledge and culture – often tampering with them, or, if needed, dismantling their known edifices to fit them into the dubious scheme of things – enforcing, coercing complicity. In fact, power in today's globalized-financialized climate often appears in the paradigmatic guise of the culture-knowledge dyad impacting behaviours in economic and cultural spaces and turning the subjects into psychic consumers. Nationism/statism, an ancillary product of globalized imperial power, also, operates from within the paradigms and programmes of coercion and control, often arbitrarily brought to bear upon the very existence/presence of the 'individual' showing a will to navigate outside of the regime of consensus.
Power, or its auxiliary structures of acculturation, postulates each human as a social unit with the capacity to live within the bounds of the model personhood/self/being often deemed ideal and necessary for the society built on 'consensus' to thrive. This 'individual subject', complicit with power and polity, and devoid of his/her own anatomy of individuality is only considered as an instrument of society where 'equal worth is postulated as personhood', according to Drucilla Cornell, an American feminist.
Therefore, the new subjectivity, or selfhood, is brought into existence courtesy of the individual with a conscious or unconscious 'mode of dissociation' with power and its attendant cultural-epistemic bases. This delinking with the 'consensus reality' to connect to the 'bare' or 'rudimentary' being/self is a primordial method of reviving the body in order to bring it closest to the self, a process which makes possible every act of 'individuation'. Once this new individuated subject is brought into being – one who refuses to be the product of the current society – the former conforming being/self,is finally made to recede.
The new being thus exists as the new germ that biopolitically infests the spaces of production and propagation (be that cultural or industrial) to lay claim to the social-political-cultural loci that have been fully usurped by dominant power. But there is this significant next phase, which opens a new portal: the dissociation paves the way for re-sociation as the being reestablishes his/her relational chord with the othered knowledge, peoples and cultures. This he/she does in terms other than the dictates of consensus reality, which is a reflection of the unconscious will of the masses, divided as they are across class and faith and impotent vis-à-vis power and domination.
The new subjectivity appears in the same recesses where mainstream knowledge and culture thrive. The strategy thus is not to exit or evacuate the established locales but to co-opt them as an alternative occupant to propel things to newer directions – selflessly and selfishly, by way of introducing a new being with the potential to generate ideas and wares for the 'coming society'.
This is how the new subjectivity legitimizes its acts of divagation, which is not an end in itself but a means to gain ever-greater grounds in the social turf. The motivation for an alternative 'model of being' is, thus, audaciously connected to the alternative models of society. The two – the man-woman (subject) and the society-utopia (object) – are brought into alignment through the formation of a political will. The nomadic excursions into the imagined future, where power remains eternally and willfully in check to allow for creative reorganization of the self and its subsequent mutation, may be considered obvious entry points to the othered existential matrices – through which the coming society is also envisioned.
The creation of the nomadic space is exemplified by Bengali poet Jibananda Das in his famous poem Banalata Sen – where one is allowed admission into the defamiliarized regions of historical/linguistic constructs only to have oneself rescued from the drudgeries of life lived in conformity. This bit of psychic flâneuring coupled with actual flâneuering in the social lithosphere, of which examples abound in Das's later-day poems, is an imperative if one is to challenge the epistemological basis of all regimes of power. A way out of the 'culture of aestheticized narcissism', to quote Colin Gordon (preface to, Power, Essential Works of Foucault, vol 3), is to keep travelling the length and breadth of actual and imagined spaces to reconsolidate one's self and, in turn, renegotiate one's position vis-à-vis the current dominant social order.
In a globalized world the 'self-inventing modern personage of the artist-dandy-flâneur, a mode of living can itself be a valid creative product,' as has been observed by Foucault. The idea is to invest it in the creation of the alternative being with the ability to infest and transform existing social space(s).
It is through visions/imagery/creations that the provisional psychic terrains are used as a space to reorganize the self and release the germicides aimed at power. Only then the self-imposed marginality attained by the new, critical being will have gained leverage in the social space(s) to debunk all the dominant human constructions in order to dispel the myths that go to stabilize power. If the very first step is the renewal/rethinking of the relational web that connects the self with the current society, the next, and the most crucial one is to take part in the formation of the ‘political will’ from within the space that conjugates the individual with the society that may emerge out of that novel framework. And the creative space(s), among few other alternative ones, is the last frontier for the self-inventing being, whose flâneuring/nomadism enables him/her to keep interrogating the current world and its order to make visible the immanent collective utopia – the next world. The most important task pertaining to such nomadism is to give precedence to the pre-immanent knowledge often embedded in the very fabric of the arts (as all good art goes beyond factual descriptions) capable of envisioning the birthing of the new, and, in turn, keep transgressing the arbitrarily imposed structurations of culture, knowledge and society.